Saturday, January 30, 2010

we sew vintage.

I'm taking on a new endeavor and I'm hoping many of you will join me! As you know, I've been trying to sew more of my vintage pattern stash, because I think its sad to leave them all sitting in a box in the back of my closet.

To inspire me, I search for sites or blogs that feature projects made from vintage patterns. There are a lot of bloggers out there who sew vintage! That's awesome! It got me cool would it be to have a single blog or site that ONLY featured vintage sewing projects from a variety of contributors?

There is a similarly themed blog out there, Sew Retro. Lots of good things there and its worth a visit! But they feature all sorts of topics, not just in-progress or finished projects. I decided to narrow the focus a bit, and...I created my own. Why not?!

Currently, the blog is located at Wordpress, because I really like their setup and the ability to create multiple pages. I think that (after the initial differences if you use blogger) its easier and quicker to post too! (But just in case Wordpress proves too difficult for people to adjust to, I've reserved the blogger address too.) You can visit We Sew Vintage by clicking here.

If you'd like to join the blog, it's open to everyone who loves to sew vintage! You'll have to sign up with Wordpress first, but it's free, simple and quick.

I wanted to invite all my blogreaders first! I know there are many of you who make gorgeous vintage things and post them on your own blogs for our enjoyment. I'll still be doing that here too, I won't be leaving this blog or posting less. I just wanted to create a place where everyone can go and enjoy vintage garment inspiration, and to share with like-minded people.

I hope you'll join me!


We survived the ice & snow and still have power and water, which makes me very happy. We got over 1/4 inch of ice:

Before 6-8 inches of snow fell:

I've had an assortment of colorful birds enhabiting the back porch since the white stuff came down. Here are just a few!

I sent the snow & ice on over for ya'll in the southeast to enjoy.

You're welcome.

Thursday, January 28, 2010


See this?

Well, I'm right in the path of the white stuff (that 6-12 inches band is me). I can handle snow, but unfortunately they're calling for up to 1" of ice accumulation first, which means I'll lose power.

Last time I lost power for an ice storm, it was out for 2 weeks. Yes, WEEKS.

But least I'll have time to trace some of the cute things in the new BWOF (or BS as Shannon has started calling it, haha) and Burda Plus mag, which has some cute things in it for spring/summer! I really like this knit top:And this pencil skirt is really sort of awesome. I probably need to muslin it asap.

And I'm a sucker for these flowy, butterfly sleeve thingies. LOVE this top.
This top has possibilities too. Hmmm.
If you don't hear from me for a few days...I'm hunkered down, keeping warm, and missing the internets!! But hopefully, we'll just see some nice, white fluffy stuff and I'll be cozy warm with the internet AND the tv to keep me company.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Pink Lacy Baby Dress

This dress was an exciting project for me! It is a reproduction of an early 20th century baby dress, in pink cotton batiste and a variety of cotton laces (both tea-dyed).

After I fell in love with Sew Beautiful Magazine, I had ordered all the back issues I could find. The instructions for this sweet baby dress are in the Easter 1996 issue (now out of print). The article is called "Grandmother's Teddies". The original baby dress was created from an Edwardian slip, part of a mother's trousseau.

The instructions were for a size 2 and I had absolutely NO experience resizing patterns/instructions, so I just had to wait until Lu was old enough I could make this for her!! The bodice is entirely made of lace. Strips of varying widths are zigzagged together to form the majority of the bodice, with a mitered section forming the square neckline.

Vertical strips are then zigzagged onto the right and left edges to form the little cap sleeves. The neckline also has a slightly gathered piece of lace edging adding a sweet ruffle. For those of you unfamiliar with sewing with "French" laces, the lace that does not have a scalloped edge, but is straight on each side is called "insertion". The lace with a scalloped edge is called "edging". (**Note: my laces are actually domestic, not French. I couldn't afford French laces! I found a great mail order catalog that had a cheaper alternative cotton lace in pretty patterns.)

The skirt portion is just 2 rectangles of fabric. The pink batiste was off the bargain table at my local Wal-Mart (which used to carry fabrics!) It was so sheer and pretty. The skirt has 3 folded tucks above a lace "fancy band". A fancy band is really just strips of lace, sometimes bordered by a lace or fabric ruffle, and sometimes just a strip of edging to finish it off.

My tucks aren't exactly evenlly spaced, which probably drove me crazy back then since I was so particular. But now, I love those uneven tucks. I think they are so sweet! And its a testament to my growing skill set.

Underneath the little lace dress is a matching pink slip. I drafted the slip using the neckline and armholes of another dress pattern, and then just a-lining the skirt piece out (measuring the length of the finished lace dress first.) The hem is just a single piece of lace edging. This is just a quick easy way to hem things! I still like to hem with lace, because its so fast and pretty. Maybe I'll do a French sewing with lace tutorial if there's interest!

The neck and armholes are finished with a machine shell-hem. I had a basic machine back then, no bells and whistles, so I used the "blind hem" stitch to cheat this. Looks so dainty! Of course, as tiny as this dress is, it wouldn't have taken long to do by hand. But I was learning how to do all of these techniques and I was always excited to see something actually work out!

I know I am repeating myself, but this is one of my very favorites. I love, love, love this little dress. The original dress in the article was passed down from generation to generation, each baby girl being photographed in the lace dress. I hope that some day I will have future babies in the family to pass on this adorable dress.

Monday, January 25, 2010

for all the beginners...

I have a soft spot for learners. Hey, I'm a teacher! Comes with the territory! But especially beginning seamstresses, because I've been there.

One of the reasons I wanted to begin sharing my projects from the beginning of my sewing journey, was to encourage those of you who are also getting your feet wet. Because we were ALL beginners at some point! Heck, I still feel like a beginner most of the time. And I actually AM a beginner for some techniques. (I'd wager most seamstresses have a technique or skill they're afraid to do!)

For example, I've never made a welt pocket that I can remember. So I'd be a beginner if I tried one. I've made lots of lapped, center, and fly zippers. But I hate invisible zips, and rarely do them. So I'd consider myself a beginner for those. I consider myself intermediate to advanced for most of the construction basics, and ditto for some specialty techniques like French sewing by machine or smocking.

But once I was a beginner in all of these.

One thing I really don't care for, but I see more and more of, is a list of "rules" for new seamstresses. Don't do this. Don't do that. If you do this you'll look frumpy or dowdy or "becky home-ecky". These lists don't really add anything to the sewing community. They're judgmental, as a rule, and tend to make beginners (the very people they're aspiring to "help") feel inadequate and ill prepared.

And I just don't like them.

I think they're detrimental for a very real and very important reason: they make you afraid. They make you afraid to take risks, take chances, try new things. They make you afraid to go with your gut, choose a fabric you've never sewn with before, or try a new technique, for fear it will look bad. They make you afraid people are judging your skills every time you walk out the door wearing something you've created.

I also find it ironic that many times I see these lists perpetuated by seamstresses with less than a few years experience. I am also developing a dislike for the "humor" injected into these type of lists. Is this an attempt to soften the blow? I'm not sure.

I enjoy a spot of humor. Very much! I'm sure if you've read my blog very long, you already know this. I don't enjoy sarcasm for sarcasm's sake. I don't enjoy snide. I don't enjoy the snark that overstays its welcome. Even if its funny. Maybe I'm just a Pollyanna...but I find myself preferring sweet, genuine people in my blog-reading.

I think I might be in the minority in this.

Although, I think Conan O'brien knows what I mean. I'm pasting a quote from his last appearance on the Tonight Show below, because it really spoke to me and is a good match with how I've been feeling about this great big, yet snidely funny world of late:

"All I ask is one thing,
and I’m asking this particularly of young people:
please don’t be cynical. I hate cynicism, for the record,
it’s my least favorite quality and it doesn’t lead anywhere.
Nobody in life gets exactly
what they thought they were going to get.
But if you work really hard and you’re kind,
amazing things will happen."

I've been sewing for almost 12 years. Most people would not consider me a beginner. But I once was. And if you are now, I hope you take heart with this words-only post. I have felt all the discouragement, nervousness, frustration and excitement you feel when you begin a new project.

Here's a secret for you...I still mostly feel that way, whenever I begin a new project today. When I don't feel excitement and nervousness and the thrill of my heart beating a little faster at the smell of freshly prewashed cotton, I'll probably hang up my needle and thread.

And I think about that young mother, who dove in and tried to make a 1930s reproduction lace baby dress as her first project, because she had no fear. And how she chose the wrong fabric and wore it blissfully unaware. And how she fell in love so hard with sewing, even today, 12 years later, her heart sings when she sits at the machine.

Because she had no list of "rules."

This post is for all the beginners.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

vintage inspired: lace dress

Continuing the story of my sewing journey, we skip ahead a year. My first year of sewing has been grand, learning new techniques, trying out commercial patterns...and I get a little bit bolder when I see a dress I just have to have for spring.

It's a lace dress, a 1930s reproduction, but I can't find a pattern that quite matches (mind you, this was before I even knew what eBay was!) Instead, I chose a sleeve from here, a neckline & bodice from there, a skirt from another...and added some of my newly acquired French sewing skills to add the lacy detailing. Here is my 1930s Lace Dress:

The dress itself is an all-over embroidered rayon netting. I believe I got it in the bridal section of my local Hancocks. I probably had to save up for it! The lace is cotton lace, also from Hancocks. I remember being so excited that I found real cotton lace there. It was OLD. And I bought a bunch of it at a 50% off sale! I still have a bit left, too. I tea-dyed the entire lot (netting & lace) in a tea & vinegar bath to "age" it some more.

The bodice was empire, but I added a strip of puffing all around, edged with more lace:

Here's a closeup of my puffing. I was so proud of it, although no one in my near circle of family & friends had the slightest idea of what puffing was:

In the back, the puffing gets tighter at the center back, where the bodice also gathers:

The hem has a netting ruffle, also edged with lace:

Here's the dress without the underslip. It's so dainty and sweet.

For underneath I made a cream slipdress, using a New Look pattern long thrown out.

I knew nothing about FBAs or fitting, the only sewing book I possessed was a 1970s edition of the Reader's Digest Guide to Sewing that my mom & dad picked up for me at an auction for $2. (I still have & use this too! It's my favorite how-to book for the basics!)

Consequently, the slipdress fit through the bustline, but was too big through the neck & shoulder area. Not having anymore fabric to cut another (and no $$ to buy more) I cut away the binding from the neckline and made little darts in front, and a box pleat in back, fiddling with it until it fit. I actually liked it better after my "fix".

I wore this dress to church a few times, but I wished that I had some grand tea or summer wedding to wear it to! I'm not in my 20s anymore, and the dress is too snug now. Sniff. I wish I could still wear it. I would! Everywhere!

Maybe with my cream silk vintage hat.

I'll be posting a lacy baby dress next. It went hand and hand with this one, a reproduction of a vintage 1920s baby dress.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

slip envy.

I'm currently in love with vintage lingerie, slips in particular. These photos are all from previous ebay auctions and etsy shops.

Pretty full slips...

Lovely half slips. I especially love the ones that have all the embellishments and frippery. That no one ever sees when your clothes are on!!

I've got this 1940s Advance pattern:

I think a bunch of vintage inspired slips in a variety of colors is in my near future. And just think how fabulous you'd feel knowing you had such pretty underwear on. It would be like a little secret.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

crafty girls.

Today's Creative Blog is having a Link Party!

Share your blog or project, find new fabulous blogs to visit!

(But don't be replacing me on your must-read list.M'k?)

Sunday, January 17, 2010

in the beginning.

Although my blog is not new, nor is my love of vintage clothing and patterns, I've never taken the time to write out how this all began for me. I thought it might be fun to pull out some early projects and share with you how I fell in love with sewing.

Like many moms who sew, my sewing bug bit after my baby girl was born. For Lu's first Easter I wanted the perfect dress. Something vintage inspired of course, since I've been wearing or loving vintage my whole life. I searched high and low, in store after store, all in vain.

Finally it dawned on me that if I SEWED this magical dress, I could make it anything I wanted it to be. (Except I didn't sew.) That didn't stop me from scouring the pattern counter books for this elusive design. Sadly, even here I didn't find it. I was running out of time and frustrated. I needed a break from the search, so I perused the magazine rack for a few moments. I picked up a magazine I had never read before, Sew Beautiful. It was March, 1998.

I don't know why, but I flipped the magazine over to look at the back and there in glorious full size, color, free pattern inside (!) was my dream Easter Dress. I almost hyperventilated. I bought the magazine and scoured the directions. I started sewing.

Dandelion Delight from Sue Stewart's website
my "perfect" Easter Dress

Needless to say, I had bitten off way more than I could chew with this project. It definitely wasn't a "beginner's" dress and that first foray into sewing ended up in the trashcan. Lu wore a store bought, sweet white dress & bonnet to Easter that year. Rather than be discouraged however, I was determined to figure out this sewing business and proceeded to try again and again.

I cried over my first bound neckline. I was something of a perfectionist, and I kept ripping out my topstitching because I couldn't get it evenly placed. My mom finally told me to leave it, no one would ever know... And she was right. Lu wore that little dress a million times the summer she was 1...and no one ever said "Say, that topstitching isn't quite perfect."

At the end of the summer, I was ready to try Sew Beautiful again. Not Dandelion, I still wasn't quite up to that level yet. But I was itching to try smocking. Which brings me to this first project I want to share. This is a vintage reproduction dress, featured in a 1998 issue of Sew Beautiful magazine. The original dress (from the 1930s or 40s I believe?) hangs in the Kent State Museum. Here, I give you my version.

I used a pink dotted swiss I got on the clearance table at Hancocks. They had it marked down to $1...because it was "old". To me, it was lovely and perfect. The pink borders are a matching 100% cotton, also from the clearance bin.

This garment has a lot of firsts for first curved applique border, and my first shaped collar. (Both of which I hand drew the patterns for.) But most importantly, this is my first smocking. I drew on the little dots and pulled them up to form the pleats, because I didn't have a pleater.

I learned to make buttonhole stitch thread loops for the placket (which I cut too low, but then this was also my first foray into pattern drafting, as I didn't have a pattern to make this dress from.)

My first bullion roses, and some of my first embroidery stitching, around the hem.

I got really tired of making bullions and only ended up making them on the front, but I continued the green stitching all around the dress hem:

I don't think there are words to express how much I love this dress. Lu wore it for her first birthday portrait in August of that year, and for many Sundays and special occasions afterward. Remember, back in March of that year I had never sewn anything past home ec class in high school. I had found my calling, and I never looked back.

Back then, I didn't even have a computer, much less the internet. That came along a few years later. In alot of ways, sewing saved me. I was a single mother of 2 toddlers and I was living on less than $7,000 a year. I needed this creative outlet, just to keep the stress of my every day life at bay. Many days there was only me, the babies, and the hum of my machine.

I can't wait to share more things with you! There's more to the story of my early sewing adventures, and some truly beautiful garments I would love to show you.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

saturdays are book days.

I have been in the vintage buying mode for a while now, you probably noticed! Well, I don't actually know a ton about the pattern industry's history, so a few weeks ago I ordered some books from Amazon to educate myself! They FINALLY came! (That free shipping is both a blessing and a curse sometimes.)

I got two from the "Blueprints of Fashion" series. Since the late 1930s and 1940s are "my" eras, I of course got the 1940s book:

And since I'm enthralled with all things Mad Men (although Mad Men is set in the very early 60s) and lusting after the "wiggle dress plus circle skirt in the same pattern" these days, I got the 1950s book.

I LOVE them. The 1940s book is bigger, and has more style information for the decade. And 150+ pages of 1940s pattern covers to look at in glorious color!! The 1950s book, while the entry chapters are not quite as interesting to me at first glance, has a LOT of information on pattern company origins. Just not as much info about the decade's fashion trends. The 1950s book is a bit smaller too. Still chalk full of vintage pattern cover goodness though.

I also got this book, "The 1940s Look", because I'm fascinated by the recent surge of bloggers who wear vintage and style their hair, makeup, etc. in vintage ways. I'm not jumping on that train any time soon, because I don't have the patience, but that doesn't make me less interested in the how-to!

This is a great resource for1940s fashion information. Beautiful, visual layout too. (I would notice something like that.) Sadly, it does not show you how to "recreate the fashions, hairstyles, and makeup of the second world war", at least not in "step by step" format, which is what I was expecting from the cover's subhead.

The illustrations are gorgeous though. The colors are rich and vibrant, and there are dozens of rare magazine ads for fashions, beauty products, sewing patterns, etc. And the information in the book itself is incredibly interesting.

For example, it has a chapter detailing the government imposed rationing on goods & clothing during the war, and pictures of clothing coupon books. (This book is British, by the way, so everything is from that perspective. A similar rationing was happening in the states, however.) Here's an excerpt of the suggested garments on a four-year plan to conserve your coupons (& get the most bang for your buck):
First Year:
1 pair shoes
6 pairs stockings
10 oz wool or 2.5 yards material
1 suit
2 slips
1 blouse (home made)

Second Year:
1 pair shoes
6 pairs stockings
8 oz wool or 2 yards material
1 silk dress
Underwear: Cami-knickers or vest and knickers (2-3 pairs)
Corselette or brassiere and girdle (2-3 pairs)
6 handkerchiefs

I won't list all 4 years, even though it is really interesting! I love seeing the word "material" for fabric, reminds me of my mom & my grandma. I still use that word occasionally too, since I grew up hearing it. In year 3, you get 2 cotton or silk frocks. I LOVE the word frocks! I want to use it to describe something I make!

Because I wasn't sure what they were either, here's a pattern for Cami-knickers.

Probably exactly what you were thinking of, right? And rather cute. I kind of want a pair. I can't imagine wanting to have 2-3 pairs of "Corselettes" or girdles, though! Ouch!

Isn't it amazing to think of having to make do with so little? Really, do we need all the excess we consider normal today? Probably not. Sometimes I wonder how much happier I'd/we'd be if we lived with much less "stuff".

A few vintage patterns also arrived this week, ebay purchases! I can't wait to share those, but it will have to wait for another post. I haven't scanned the covers yet! I can give you a peek's one extremely fabulous one:

Oh all right, here's another:

And be on the look out for my mini wardrobe sewing plan. Shannon & I are going to do a bit of a sewalong if any of you want to join us! One of those "no real rules, unless you want to make up your own" sewalongs. We just want a sewing plan that works for our individual needs, and a storyboard to motivate us! Stay tuned, I'll be posting my storyboard this weekend!